29. St. Elsewhere
Air Dates: October 26, 1982 – May 25, 1988
Stars: Mark Harmon, Ed Flanders, Cynthia Sikes, David Morse, Denzel Washington, Howie Mandel, Ed Begley, Jr., William Daniels, David Birney, G.W. Bailey, Norman Lloyd, Christina Pickles, Kavi Raz, Terence Knox, Ronny Cox, Barbara Whinnery
Called "Hill Street Blues in a hospital," St. Elsewhere brought the grittiness of Steven Bochco's cop drama to a run-down teaching hospital in Boston named St. Eligius. The fixation on the gritty that TV experienced in the early '80s was a precursor to HBO's promise in the late '90s to deliver something beyond what you could see on the major networks. But the trend to push the limits begins here.
St. Elsewhere was marked by its large cast, black humor, and understated drama. The characters quipped about the squalor of the hospital that funding had forgotten, giving the show a playfully nihilistic bent.
The show's willingness to dismantle and upend reached its apotheosis in the series finale. Over 22 million people tuned it to see how it would all end. Of course, no one could've predicted that it would end inside the snow globe of the autistic Tommy Westphall, son of Dr. Donald Westphall, former Director of Medicine at St. Eligius. If that sentence scans as nonsense to you, you're one of the few who hasn't had the ending spoiled. Seek out the DVDs ASAP. —RS